Shovel Knight: King of Cards | Preview

Developer Yacht Club Games graciously gave us the opportunity to sit down and check out the demo of the latest Shovel Knight expansion, King of Cards. As of now, the expansion has no release date other than some time in 2018. The game will be free for those who own the Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove bundle, or $9.99 for those who do not. We got to play the first three stages and tackle the first boss in the game.

Similar to the past two expansions, King of Cards will put players in the shoes of another one of Shovel Knight’s adversaries found in the original game. This time around, the King Knight takes the spotlight and goes on an adventure of his own. King Knight has a brand new set of abilities that require players to shoulder dash through enemies, bounce off of walls and spin in mid-air. What makes these abilities interesting is that I found myself having to completely learn how to play the game all over again.

Instead of the typical double jumps, grapples and wall jumps found in most platformers, King Knight must utilize his dash move in order to conquer platforming challenges that felt like small puzzles. While dashing, King Knight can bounce off of certain walls, enemies and lamps that will allow him to spin like a top after contact. Players will use this spin state to bounce off of other objects and enemies in order to reach higher platforms and defeat foes. I found myself scratching my head at first on how I was going to reach many areas within the stages, but once it clicked, I was bouncing around like a champ.

Controlling King Knight feels very similar to the way Wario controls in the Wario Land titles. He feels heavier, a little slower, and smashes through a lot of blocks and enemies with his dash ability. Unlike the Wario Land games, King of Cards includes much more challenging platforming segments that can be very tricky to tackle. Thankfully, the game retains its much appreciated checkpoint system and includes unlimited lives.

One area in the game required me to reach a high ledge by bouncing off of a rocky wall, dashing in mid air, hitting a blue lantern, transition into the spin move and bounce off of an orange lantern swinging from left to right. It took me a couple of tries to accomplish this feat, but once I did I felt pretty awesome. Some portions of the levels, like grassy walls, will not allow King Knight to propel himself off of them with the dash move. These areas require extra awareness and thought in order to navigate, which is where the puzzle vibes come into play.

The demo allowed us to fight the first boss in the game, Specter Knight from the previous expansion. In this boss fight, I found that the secret to success was to jump on a platform, dash into a lantern in the center of the stage, and bounce off of Specter Knight’s head using the spin maneuver. The tricky part was dodging all of his projectiles in the process. Once Specter Knight fell, I was rewarded with loot and a classy pose by King Knight himself.

Once again, the stages in King of Cards are similar to the ones found in Shovel Knight. However, the stages have been re-worked to implement new challenges that cater to the new abilities introduced in the game. Yacht Club is promising 30 new remixed stages within four worlds along with a new card battling mini-game as well. Skill upgrades will also make a return that allow King Knight to evolve as you progress.

Overall I really enjoyed what I played of King of Cards. The new dash and spin mechanics took me awhile to figure out, but once I did I understood most challenges that were laid out before me. Pulling them off successfully was a different story. I do feel that the game isn’t quite as accessible as the previous entries in the series due to the difficulty of linking the abilities together, but I also feel that this will be a problem that will alleviate itself with more levels under my belt. It’s a much more challenging game than the previous titles and I’m curious to see what Yacht Club brings to the table in King of Cards.

Shovel Knight: King of Cards will release early next year on just about every platform imaginable, including the PC, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Check out the reveal trailer below.